Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bible Study 1 John Chapter 5 Identity & Overcoming Power

This is the last chapter of 1 John and John is summarizing the key points.

Qualifications to be Children of God
Whoever believes in Jesus as the Christ (Messiah, 1Jn 5:1), as he Son of God has eternal life (1Jn 5:13). That is all there is. Just believe. So easy. You don't need to be highly educated to understand it. You don't need to do anything good to earn it.  Good acts will come later. It comes by first receiving Jesus who paid the penalty and gave us the new godly life.

Evidence for our Faith
John is not asking us to believe in hearsays but in true evidences of blood, water and Spirit (1Jn 5:6-10). The God in the flesh is testified by John in 1Jn 1:1-3.

How can One be sure?
When we love God by obeying His commandments, we get to know (by reality of experience) Him more and His love for us. John points out that His commandants are not burdensome as others and the devils would like us to believe. James call those commandments the Laws of Liberty. I called them the opened secrets of success in life. See Principles & Insights from the Ten Commandments

A Digression about Laws and the Giver of Laws
There are preachers that tell us to know the author behind the principles rather than the principles themselves which may lead to legalism. Such kind of message is true in one aspect (to love the giver rather than the gifts, the author rather than his/her books) but create distortion in another aspect as if the principles are to be thrown away and not be followed. Such kind of one sided message can be easily exploited to justify sinning (don't follow the laws or principles, follow the author). Not only those messages are misleading, they are shallow and irresponsible. They are emotional charged. They sounded good but really lacked wisdom. How do we truly know the authors without his principles? Aren't the principles a reflection of the character of the author. Let see what Jesus say.
  • John 14:15 If you love me, you will obey my commandments.
  • John 14:21 He that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me: and he that loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
  • John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; just as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
We know the author of the principles by obeying the principles. By following, we get to experience that the principles are for our good and we may know His love deeper and His wisdom towards us. We don't follow the principles per se for justification. We follow the principles to experience the love and trustworthiness of God. Are God promises true and trustworthy? Are God true to His words? Does His words really work? We can only tell by following and acting them out in faith.

Don't listen to preacher and messages who preach one-sided messages. Truth is holding extremities in balanced or in tension. God is both love and just. There is justice and truth in love and truth has love in it. Get rid of simplistic A or B narrow minded thinking that forces one to take side, create strife and leads to heresies and cults . Any issue is multi-faceted and we need to adopt a better thinking approach. Learn to appreciate the differences and have discernment.

True Children of God Overcome

Children of God overcome three things:
  1. The Devils. Earlier chapter 4 says we have overcome them because of the Holy Spirit in us. 1Jn5:18 says that we are protected by Jesus and devil cannot touch us. We can boldly go out to conquer (Eph 6:15 shoes of gospels, Isa 52:7, Rom 10:15).
  2. The World. Instead of being tempted by the world as in 1Jn 2:16, we leads the world in glorify God. We take leading positions in influencing the Arts & Entertainment, Businesses, Churches & Religions, MeDia & News, Education, Family and Government bringing God's Kingdom practices in them.
  3. The Sins. Does not keep on sinning 1Jn 5:18.
True Children Get their Requests Answered - A Life of Faith in Action
By obeying God's commandments in practice, we get to know the heart and mind of God and we grow in our confidence in Him. We will also get to think and feel like God and will ask things according to His will and get the answers from Him. (1Jn 5:14-15). Fruit of the Spirit takes time to produce. The answer to the request for patience comes in the form of greater irritations and delays. It is not that God did not answer us immediately but that we fail to perceive His answer!

True Children Love their Brothers & Sisters -  They are their Brothers Keepers
A typical tendency we find in churches are the quickness to gossip about the wrong or bad behaviors of brothers and sisters behind their backs but not having the guts to confront their wrong doings. They did not give them a chance to explain themselves. By their gossiping behind their backs they already pass the judgments. This is not what John tell us to do here. We are to ask God first and get guidance to bring life back to him. (We are the likely agent God uses to give life back). God can give revelation to the person so that he can be awaken and face up to his sin. There is much discussion about what the "death" means. I will just take it physical death. Persistent in sinning without repentance will bring forth physical death see 1 Cor 5:5. It is our responsibility to correct our brother in the right ways but we cannot be responsible for his repentance.

Final Summary of the Greatest Truth for Life
John re-summarized the gospel again. Jesus, the Son of God, the Eternal Life, came to us so that we may know Him and have eternal life too. Jesus is the true God and we need not seek other idols. For the present days, the typical idol is money and it could disguise as career. Watch for the warning of 1 John 2:16.

Questions of Reflections & Applications
  1. What do the believers overcome?
  2. What does each overcoming mean?
  3. What difference does it make to your life? How can you reap the benefits?
  4. Give a one line statement of the Good News according to John. 
  5. What are you going to do about the knowledge of the Good News?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bible Study 1 John Chapter 4 Discernment & True Love

Discernment first then Love (4:1-6)
A major part of this chapter talks specifically about true love (vs our common love that is self-centered and performance based). However, it begins with discernment first. It is telling us that we need to discern first before we blindly love. In the world of increasing complexity and exploitation of good heartedness, where robberies use people in distress to lure and rob kind people  who come to help, we need discernment.

When people are fed up with hypocrisy and seek a true spiritual experience, they are likely and easily be deceived by the evil spirits disguised as angels of light. John tells us how to discern the spirit - whether it is from God or from the anti-Christ. Here is the list:
  1. confession of Jesus Christ as Son of God and existed as a man (come in the flesh) v2. (v14 shows John testifying the real man Jesus that is from God as in Chapter 1).
  2. worldly and Godless mindset  v3 (they speak from the world).
  3. following the Bible or not v6. (listen to us).
Christians tend to focus too much on the coming anti-Christ rather than anti-Christs, the false prophets, now. John is very clear about the anti-Christs existence all through the times. v3 says they are now in the world already!

The spirits work through man and hence we must discern the spirit behind the man. This was made obvious in Jesus' rebuke of Satan that was behind's Peter's words (Mat 16:23).  

We may have to fight the evil spirits behind the person. John assured us in 4:4 that the Holy Spirit within us is greater than the evil spirit outside. We can love a person but not his/her life styles, thoughts or definitely not the evil spirits instigating him/her. Be wise and discerning so that we don't unknowingly become the instruments or victims of the evil spirits behind the people. We cannot be more loving than God. God hates evil. We are in a spiritual battle (Eph 6:12) not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces. Wise up!

True Love
  1. It is from God and we love with and as God's love v7. God is love v8.
  2. God's love is planted in us through Jesus v9
  3. It is pro-active. It initiates. It loves first. It is not a respond or reaction to love. v10,19
  4. Love is unconditional. It is not based on your performance or the value you provide. God loves us while we were yet sinners. Our good behavior is good for us. Our sinful behavior is bad for us. Our behavior does not cause God to love us more or less but does cause us to be joyful and free or not.
  5. Love brings love. We love with God's love v11
  6. Love is action in the tangible and visible world of one another human beings. v12,21
    Anyone who hates his brother cannot say he has love. Loving our living people reflects our love for God v20.
  7. As we love in practice, we get to know and experience love more and our love grows towards perfection v12.
  8. Assurance of His Spirit in us is through our love. Love is abiding in God. v 13
  9. God set the example by giving His only Son to the world to pay for our sins v9-10.
  10. We CAN LOVE because (there is no excuse for us)
    • We are of God (of LOVE) v15,16
    • We believe the Love of God for us. v16
    • As He is so are we in this world v17.
    • LOVE has no fear. Perfect love cast out fear. We can boldly love. v18
    • God loves us first then we may in turn love others v19.
Discern the right spirit and love the person in the right way. Love is truth. Love is other-centered. Love has no fear ( It has decided on the price to pay).

Questions for Reflection
  1. How do you discern the spirit of God or spirit of Anti-Christ?
  2. What are the attributes of True-Love?
  3. What is not true-love?
Questions for Application
  1. From the above list, what specific actions do you need to take in building a harmonious relationships? Who-What-When-How-Where. Why is answered - because you are love. Love wisely and rightly.
(Please be careful about how you love. You should not impose your own standard on others and insisting on people doing exactly as you like. There are culture, personality differences. May be your 'love' is too imposing and a loving act to do is to give space. Love wisely - according to the loved culture and preferences in the context of truth and Godliness).

See also Bible Study 1 John 4 Discernment & Love Discussion

Next: Bible Study 1 John Chapter 5 Identity & Overcoming Power

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bible Study 1 John Chapter 3 Believers Behave Like Their Father

Believers are Children of God
1John 3 begins with a declaration that we are children of God v1. We are like Him in appearance (as glorious as Him when he comes) and we should naturally behaves like Him.

The Behavior of Him
There are two aspects of His behavior pointed out in this chapter. Namely,
  1. Purity - Righteousness - Sin free and hence Sin NOT (v3-10). Sinning is of the devil (v8) and righteousness is of the God(4,6,9). Our outward behavior is the result of our inward character. He who is born of God will not enjoy and stayed in sin. Sin should be unnatural to him.
  2. Love one another in deeds & truth (v11-24)
    • Jesus set the example by laying down His life for us. We are to do likewise 3:16
    • Love not just in words but in action (v18)- 2 types of action:
      • Giving to those in Needs (3:17) according to our ability.
      • Correcting those in sin (5:16)
    • Love is in Truth (v19) according to the Word of God. 
      • put on the breastplate of righteousness Eph 6:14. Eph 4:24 put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
      • Let the Word of God rules our hearts that we ask according to His will and receive the result from Him (3:22). God cannot give us things that violate His character and His words. We cannot force God. We follow Him.
The Greatest Commandment of God for Man- Believe Jesus and Love like Him
This topic is so important that I put it into a new paragraph. We are supposed to follow God's will. What is God's greatest desire and commandment for us? It is to believe His Son Jesus Christ and love one another (1 Jn 3:23). Our believe in Jesus is shown in our following all His commandments and thereby abiding in Him or more specifically in His LOVE (v24). We love as and with His love for us. The following chapter goes into a detailed discussion of the True Love of Jesus. This commandment is the upgraded version of OT love God and love others as yourself. To put it in internet term:

Commandment 1.0 - Love God and love others like yourself.
Commandment 2.0 - Believe in Jesus Christ and love others like Him with His love.

Jesus does not ask us to do things without giving us the power to do. He rebirth us with His Spirit and give Himself to us that we may be like Him by living out the Christ in us.

Questions for Reflection:
  1. In what ways are we like our Father?
  2. How can you tell you are of your Father?
  3. What is the greatest commandment for man now?
Questions for Application:
  1. How do we love one another?
  2. List down some specific actions you need to take in the coming week for any member or your family, friends or even your enemy.